Saving the planet, one virtual meeting at a time

The widespread outbreak of COVID-19 may have brought the world to a standstill, with unprecedented, multilayered implications ranging from economic, geopolitical, and health consequences. However, there’s always a silver lining in every cloud and a handful of good things have come out of the pandemic and the worldwide lockdown which ensued such as cleaner air and clearer skies due to a steep decline in vehicle traffic, air travel, shipping, and manufacturing.

COVID-19 has also speed tracked the world 50 years into the future, contributing to a remarkable shift in human history as people found new ways to live, learn, work, and play. With physical space apart being enforced as the one golden rule of social distancing and people foregoing worldly pleasures by staying indoors, one of the easiest and most effective ways they have adopted as a means to connect and stay social is by becoming virtually present. Overnight, everybody needed an outlet or a tool. As a result, videoconferencing solutions have never been more popular.

Videoconferencing is saving the planet in more ways than just one

Without people even realising it, videoconferencing is saving the planet because it lessens the harm done by paper materials as all documents needed for a meeting can be shared on-screen, reduces gas consumption as it allows all participants to stay home, and curbs the contribution of car emissions to overall greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

From remote learning to working from home to happy hours and birthday parties, and even weddings and Parliament sittings (which broke a 700-year tradition in the UK), videoconferencing has witnessed an upsurge since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Zoom, one of the dozens of videoconferencing services, has quickly risen to the top.

According to Bernstein Research and Apptopia, daily downloads of the Zoom app have increased 30 times year-over-year and the app has been the top free app for iPhones in the US since March 18. In April, Zoom said it had surpassed 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants, a giant leap from 10 million in December 2019. Additionally, while stock markets were crashing everywhere, Zoom’s shares have soared, valuing the company at USD29 billion — more than major airlines like Delta, American Airlines, or United Airlines. This is despite the glaring security and privacy concerns which were raised in April.

How did Zoom do it? The California-based company has been preparing for this since COVID-19 began spreading in China in January, monitoring its capacity and hosting free training sessions. It also helps that Zoom operates a “freemium” business model whereby groups of up to 100 people can use it for 40 minutes at a time at no charge.

And why Zoom? Why not its competitors such as Google Hangouts, Skype, or Microsoft Teams? The answer lies in Zoom’s simple user interface (UI) design and features which mirror social media apps (such as “Touch Up My Appearance” and custom backdrops) that resonate very well with the younger generation. Zoom also quickly responded to the security and privacy backlash by releasing a Zoom 5.0 update featuring passwords by default, improved encryption, and a new security icon to control meetings – a move which helped the company earn back the trust of millions.

And with Zoom shouting about reducing environmental impact through videoconferencing from as early as April 2019 – an entire year before COVID-19 – it’s easy to see why it has become the darling of its “class”.

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